College Radio: The Dying Art of Quality Musical Programming

I heard this song on the college station at my alma mater, The University of Vermont. I heard it twice in one semester as I made the long trek from Burlington to Bristol where I did my teaching internship. The first time is etched in my brain because it was a very snowy morning and the wind was causing drifts of the white stuff to float across the road. I skidded a little at one point and as I slowed to nearly a stop, the music kicked into high gear towards the end of the song and my love affair with progressive rock began in earnest.

My brother’s post about college radio struck a chord with me and I had to write something further on the subject. Just last night, while coming home from dinner with an old friend from high school, I spent most of the car ride telling her why I listen to the college station from the University of Maine or the NPR rather than any of the major radio stations. First and foremost, after years of listening to the radio while landscaping, I feel as if I’ve heard all of the popular songs. If I  hear “Don’t Stop Believing” one more time, I’ll probably lose my mind.

I could listen to this….but probably wouldn’t. Our local college station has two different metal shows and my favorite program is a psychedelic rock/hard rock show called “Symptoms of the Universe”. It’s on hiatus right now which totally bums out my Mondays.

Another reason is the constant commercials of mainstream stations. I understand this is how they make money. However,  it literally makes me insanely angry, to the point where I want to punch something. While listening to the radio, there’s nothing worse than hearing songs you like than having that whole positive feeling derailed by 8 minutes of commercials. Our local college station, like many I am sure, has a few donation drives a year to try and cover administration costs and the like. Most of the DJ’s are volunteers too so they really want to be there which shows through in their programming. They call it a “Beg-a-Thon” which is sad but true.

I first heard this song on the local adult alternative station which has a bit more funding than the typical college station. I feel confident that the latter played this song long before the former. Now it’s a huge hit, just as all of us predicted.

A third major reason college radio is better is the sheer diversity of their shows. Our local station has two-hour blocks 24 hours a day of different music and DJ’s from jazz, metal, rap, classical and electronic to blues and everything in between. The talk shows that are on it tend to be super liberal, but it seems like they also strive to have conservative guests to offset the super liberalness. I like that, the actual dedication to giving a fair and balanced opinion. Why can’t our deadlocked Congress do this now?

If you are lucky, you might hear “Papa’s got a brand new Bag” on the Oldies station but never this track which I heard on the DJ Uncle Funk show about two years ago. Oddly enough, Uncle Funk is the half brother of a good friend of mine from college who was from Kansas City, so the fact that his bro is DJ way up here in Maine is cosmicially hilarious. Mr. Funk is on a hiatus due to having a newborn baby but I look forward to hearing his show again on Saturday Nights at nine.

WMPG, as my brother mentioned, is the name of this local college station we so love that introduced him to the Pixies. They are a great example of a band that never made it to the mainstream but definitely have a huge cult status. Tickets to see their umpteenth reunion tour last fall were too rich for my budget. Another reason college radio is so good is that it either can make a band huge, like Lordes, whose music was hard to fit into a genre and would otherwise wallow on the charts if they made it on there at all. Or, it also can turn a band like the Pixies into an underground sensation which was probably best for a lot of bands who would have imploded if they saw the success of your Nirvanas and Pearl Jams. Look what happened to Kurt.

This was the first song I loved by the Pixies and I remember stealing my brother’s copy of this album many times until I buckled down and got the greatest hits cd for myself.  You hear this song and others by this groundbreaking band on the alt rock station once in a great while, but often on the few alternative shows on WMPG.

The last of what I am sure are many more reasons that I have for loving college radio is the idea of wanting to tune into a certain show at a certain time every week. Sure, the classic rock station has the Psychedelic Breakfast every Saturday morning that I never miss and the adult alternative team has acoustic sunrise shows both days of the weekend, but not a whole schedule of shows on for the whole week. On WMPG, you have Symptoms of the Universe every Monday afternoon, Hip Hop is alive every Tuesday afternoon, Blue Country each Wednesday, Uncle Funk on Saturday night and so on and so forth. An entire week of shows that changes and evolves all by people who do it for free, paid only by the calls people make and the sense of duty to their love of music. We need to support these stations by giving them money when they ask and continuing to tune in on the regular. We need to hold on to something that is dying out, something that is golden.

You never here Jurassic 5 on the hip hop station, it’s like they ban everything that has real solid beats and actual substance. I need to listen to more J5, I didn’t even know they existed until I went to college and all the urban kids had the underground rap knowledge. Now, WMPG is the only place I hear this music. Let’s keep hip hop alive and support our local college station!

6 comments on “College Radio: The Dying Art of Quality Musical Programming

  1. theelderj says:

    Did you listen to us play on the ol’ WMPG?

    • theyoungerj says:

      I must have but the memory has escaped me. I remember thinking how cool it was to have a brother in a band. You still are cool, just for being a professor and good father now.

      • theelderj says:

        Why is it that compliments always make me feel like an asshole?

        Whatever the case, we both have good reasons to be thankful for WMPG!

  2. […] College Radio: The Dying Art of Quality Musical Programming ( […]

  3. […] Pixies never got huge, getting most of their airplay on college radio and alternative stations. They never to my knowledge got into heavy drug use, with Frank Black once […]

  4. […] like Nirvana based on the popular radio hits. With so many internet radio options and some cool radio stations in existence, I could be wrong in thinking that any of these are even new to anyone. For my own interest, I did […]

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